by Lisa Schauer
“Nothing’s better for the furniture business than a pandemic,” said William Gastin “Gat” Caperton IV, owner and CEO of Gat Creek, a solid wood furniture company in Berkeley Springs.
“People were sitting around at home thinking, this isn’t good enough. Instead of spending money on vacations, they started spending money on their homes. More were integrating offices into their whole house,” he said.
Caperton, who lives in Berkeley Springs, was standing on a 7,000 square- foot concrete slab, the first section of a 30,000 square- foot expansion project underway at the old Sealy factory on US 522.
Construction should be completed by the end of the year, doubling the factory’s production capacity, according to company executives.
Caperton says the expansion is needed to keep up with demand for the solid wood American-made furniture produced there. Greater space will also accommodate the larger new hi-tech saws workers operate in the woodshop today.
“There’s finally a re- found appreciation of American-made products,” said Caperton as he stood waiting for workers to join him on the construction site last Thursday, June 16
Seemingly unfazed by the heat, the CEO chose to talk with workers individually rather than deliver a speech in the soaring heat during a brief event held at Gat Creek last week. About 100 employees came out in three waves to sign a 30-foot steel beam that will support the roof of the expanded factory.
Chris Hoopengardner of Berkeley Springs is a machine operator at Gat Creek. He said he lives only about five miles away, and used to work at Tractor Supply.
“I was tired of retail. No more weekends,” said Hoopengardner with a smile after he signed the beam at Gat Creek.
The Appalachian hard wood used to produce all Gat Creek furniture is har- vested within a 250-mile radius of the factory in Berkeley Springs, according to Caperton.
Customers can choose from ash, cherry, maple or walnut in their desired varnish and furniture design.
Caperton emphasizes that no clear cutting is used to harvest the trees, only sustainable, selective logging. He says they harvest the taller, bigger trees that are taking up sunlight from the smaller trees growing.
“Hard wood grows like weeds. The Appalachian forest is the most sustainable forest. It’s growing two- and-a-half times faster than it’ s being cut,” said Caperton.
The company is a founding member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, where it holds a silver exemplary status.
Due to strong demand in markets like Seattle, Port- land, New England, D.C. and Virginia, current wait time for a piece of custom-made Gat Creek furniture is 25 weeks, according to company executives. When demand is normal, wait time is usually five weeks.
Gat Creek furniture is sold at retail furniture stores only. The closest is about an hour away at Gladhill Furniture Company in Middletown, Md.
Solid wood furniture is made in a range of contemporary and traditional styles at Gat Creek for the living room, dining room, bedroom and office. Each piece is personally signed and dated by the builder.
Over 250 furniture designs are made-to-order at Gat Creek in four Appalachian hardwood species and 64 finishes.
Gat Caperton purchased the company from Tom Seely in 1996 and renamed it Gat Creek, carrying on the tradition of artisan furniture making in the same location.
Seely opened a small furniture repair and restoration business in the mid- 1950s. Ten years later, he expanded his enterprise to manufacture careful reproductions of the best- designed antique furniture he had encountered in estate sales.